August 24, 2011

Dancing Out Of Our Comfort Zone

Not actually us

I've been seeing a number of articles recently about how you should step outside your comfort zone on occasion, how you should do something different, something less routine, something that makes you stretch a bit. A few months ago, my wife and I did just that.

When our son got engaged last year, my wife told me "It's our son's wedding. I don't want to just sway back and forth on the dance floor like we usually do." She was right. This was important. We needed to learn how to dance.

Now my wife is never uncomfortable just going out and trying something. She doesn't care what others think of her or how she looks doing something new - she'll jump right in and give it a shot. Me - not so much. I tend to be very self-conscious, and very concerned that I'll look foolish. As much as I'd like it to be otherwise, that's just my nature.

I searched around the internet for some self-help dancing instruction. I looked at online video, checked out some websites, even purchased a "Dancing for Dummies" style book. None of that seemed to make any sense to me. I couldn't see how it all fit together.

So we decided more drastic measures were in order. I found a local dance studio that offered ballroom dancing instruction. I called and explained what we were looking for and the instructor suggested that their Beginner Ballroom Dancing would be appropriate. It was a six-week session teaching the basics of Foxtrot, Waltz, Rumba, and Swing.

While we were both a bit nervous the first night, we quickly learned that everyone was at the same beginner stage and that concentrating on learning meant that nobody cared how the others looked, nobody looked foolish, nobody would be judgmental. We were all just learners.

The first few weeks, we weren't sure we'd get it. It was hard to remember what we had learned last week, even though we practiced at home. And it was hard to believe it would ever feel comfortable. But the instructors were terrific. They took us through the beginning steps, started each lesson off with a review of the past week, and introduced new steps very gradually. They showed us what it would look like when we were doing it correctly, and what it might look like when done incorrectly.

Around the third week, we began to feel like "we can do this". While it was still hard work, we started to relax and have fun with it. We even attended a few extra dances that were offered, where we could try out what we had learned.

By the time the wedding rolled around, we were able to get out on the floor and dance many of the dances. We didn't always know what we were doing, since the wedding wasn't limited to the four dances we had practiced, but we were more confident, and more willing to just give it a shot. It was a lot of fun. Several people even asked if we had taken dance lessons.

I learned a little bit about my personal learning style. While I am able to learn a lot by reading and watching, for me that doesn't translate well into physical activity. For something like dancing, I needed someone to show me how to do it, tell me what I was doing wrong, and help me learn.

And I added another "out of my comfort zone" activity to my life. (Writing this blog was another "out of my comfort zone" stretch for me as well.)

Will all of this translate to my work life? Perhaps, I don't really know. But I do know that my wife and I have gone dancing a few times even after my son's wedding, and have had a fun time with it - and that's not half bad!

This article originally appeared in my blog: All Things Quality
My name is Joe Strazzere and I'm currently a Director of Quality Assurance.
I like to lead, to test, and occasionally to write about leading and testing.
Find me at


  1. L went through this as well a few years ago and it too was a big step out of my comfort zone.
    I too learned about my learning style - I wanted the instructors to give very precise instructions on where to put feet and arms and at first I did not like the end of the session where they allowed free-style and did not give any instructions at all !

  2. Congrats Joe - I think it brings great growth to an individual (on many levels) to learn new things and stretch outside our proverbial comfort zone.

  3. Thanks for the comments Phil and Laura!

    It's a lot easier to decide to try something potentially uncomfortable when your significant other provides so much encouragement. And it's worth it to see her smile when we dance.